The Spectator

A weekly, UK-based magazine covering current political, economic, and cultural issues. Articles include interviews, commentary, opinion pieces, essays, and cultural criticism.

Articles from Vol. 279, No. 8828, 1997

A Call to Arms for the Silent Minority
WAY OF THE WORLD: THE FORGOTTEN YEARS, 1995-6 by Auberon Waugh Century, L15.99, pp. 211 Just how long can Way of the World survive? Our watchdogs of the meritocracy must even now be growling if not slavering. In a nation marching with its belly full...
A Delightful Lumber-Room
A delightful lumber-room Caroline Moore ECHOES OF WAR by William Riviere Sceptre, L16.99, pp. 634 Echoes of War is a haunting but unforgivably self-indulgent novel -- though my intermittent irritation with it can be seen as a back-handed compliment....
Agent of Longer Duration
A NEW book from Random House, the giant American publishing conglomerate, has a devastating flaw, presumably unknown to its editors. The book minimises the spying activities of John Cairncross who died in 1995, aged 82, and the damage done to the West...
Alive with Sparkles
Alive with sparkles Andrew Lambirth The firm of Cartier was founded in Paris in 1847, but until 1900 it operated primarily as a retailer rather than a jewellery designer. A move to new premises in 1899 led to inevitable expansion, and within ten years...
Ancient & Modern
THE CRY to legalise brothels has come round yet again. Three of the most heavyweight ancients would have approved - the Greek poet and political reformer Solon (early 6th century BC), Cato the Elder (234-149 BC), Roman statesman, moralist and prose stylist,...
Are You Sitting Comfortably?
Once the only buyers of 20th-century furniture at auction were museums with an eye to the next millennium and their permanent collections in mind, advertising agencies who wanted their reception areas to make statements, and architects who could not...
Arthur Griffith, Anti-Semite
THERE IS a myth that the last antiSemitic pogrom in the British Isles was in mediaeval York. It was far more recent than that: the long-forgotten Limerick pogrom happened in 1904. It began with a sermon given by a priest and gathered momentum because...
Brad Suddenly Turns Nazi
Los Angeles IT'S ALWAYS good to see Hollywood making an expensive fool of itself. A $70 million Oscar wannabe epic called Seven Years in Tibet, starring Brad Pitt as the famous Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer, has just opened, somewhat nervously,...
By Popular Request
Hopkins skilfully acknowledges: `Rather less than whelmed up here (or is it down here?). I would have to say that, if there was any ground, laughs would be thin on it.' Jeff's ghost was beside me as I judged. He relished good bad taste, and I'm sure...
Capital Hotel, Berkeley Hotel, Chelsea Hotel
THERE can be something faintly depressing about the prospect of eating in a hotel dining-room. It often lacks the frisson of dining in a restaurant, and conjures up visions of silent couples, even singles, pecking at their food in lifeless surroundings....
Children at Risk
Both of them operas about anxious adults and the innocent but easily corrupted children in their care, Rigoletto and The Turn of the Screw could hardly be more different in virtually all other respects. Scottish Opera's production of Verdi's middle-period...
Choosing the Images
I WANT TO SPEND THE REST OF MY LIFE EVERYWHERE, WITH EVERYONE, ONE TO ONE, ALWAYS, FOREVER, NOW by Damien Hirst Booth-Clibborn, L59.95, pp. 334 And, one might well add, 7lb 14oz, not to mention seven foldies, 23 die-cuts, seven pop-uppies, x slidies,...
Dada for the Masses
Seeing the huge new retrospective of works by Robert Rauschenberg involves a mini tour of Manhattan. One starts at the Guggenheim Museum at Fifth Avenue and 89th Street, where hundreds of objects made or at least signed by Rauschenberg are arranged in...
Dear Mary
Q. I seek your guidance on the most appropriate way to answer a rather awkward question. It concerns those rare occasions when one is occupied in the bathroom; the telephone rings and one way or another you answer it. Invariably the caller wastes no...
Diary
Blackpool Through Wensleydale and Sedbergh (still part of Yorkshire in my book) and down the M6 to Blackpool. I first came here 20 years ago with Nancy Matthews, that redoubtable party agent and pillar of the Conservative cause in South Yorkshire. I...
Dirtiest Hour of Our Time
Dirtiest hour of our time Taki New York hate to say, I told you so, but I did. It took less than a month for those lunchbucket pilferers that constitute the British Fourth Estate to revert to type. What the poor little Greek boy finds amazing is that...
Foreign Affairs in the Age of Jane Bull, and the Raw Veg. of New Britain
Encouragingly early in my journalistic life - about 1954 - I was invited to write for the prestigious American journal Foreign Affairs. The subject was anti-Americanism, the hottest issue of that period, and I pulled out all the stops. Some months later,...
Generosity of Spirit
Once a Front Row Man, always Front Row Man. If you've been one of the fraternity which sprinkles iron fillings on its cornflakes, it sticks with you for life. At a college reunion dinner last weekend, the speaker, once the Oxford hooker, now a distinguished...
Have You Heard the One about General Stoughton and the Floozie?
The trouble with the world', said my old friend Vicky, the cartoonist, `is that there are not enough jokes.' In fact there are plenty, but not enough find their way into print. My tutor, A.J.P. Taylor, told me, `Don't bother to write history if no one...
Here's to You, Mrs Robinson
Here's to you, Mrs Robinson C. D. C. Armstrong THE WOMAN WHO TOOK POWER IN THE PARK by Lorna Siggins Mainstream, 14.99, pp. 240 Mary Robinson has recently resigned as President of Ireland in order to become the United Nations High Commissioner for Human...
In Venice for Pleasure
German Expressionism (Palazzo Grassi, Venice, till 11 January 1998) Venezia da Stato a Mito (Giorgio Cini Foundation, till 30 November) Palazzo Grassi is a rather ungainly building on the Grand Canal created about 1740-60 in a Venetian version of banker's...
It's So Embarrassing
In his sermon at the Labour party conference Tony Blair told us we must all be more giving. Not in the sense of giving more money to the poor, you understand. No, he made it quite clear that the hard edge of New Britain's New Compassion should fall on...
Let Me Not Be Mad, Not Mad, Sweet Heaven
STAYING SANE: HOW TO MAKE YOUR MIND WORK FOR YOU by Raj Persaud Metro, 17.99, pp. 388 What is sanity? As with poetry, it is easier to say what it isn't than to say what it is. In summary, then, sanity is the absence of insanity, and Dr Persaud's book...
Letters
Sir: Victoria Brittain's response (Letters, 4 October) to Stephen Glover's article failed to address key issues such as whether she aided and abetted Mr Kojo Tsikata in his libel case against another British newspaper. As Ms Brittain points out, Mr Tsikata's...
Mind Your Language
`YOU'RE getting like Cruden,' said my husband when I told him that I'd found an even more risibly mistaken reading of Gladstone's handwriting in Roy Jenkins's agreeable biography of him than the one I'd come up with a fortnight before. My husband was...
Mr Hague Saw What the Press Did to Mr Major. He Won't Let Them Do It to Him
It has always been amusing to observe the way in which Tory leaders' party conference speeches are drafted; who tries to take the credit, and to whom the credit is actually due. As you drift around the foyer of the main conference hotel, you will come...
My First Countess
My first countess ELIZABETH LONGFORD: THE AUTHORISED BIOGRAPHY by Frances Makower Hodder, 17.99, pp. 212 Christmas comes but once a year and when it comes it brings good cheer; but in 1992 the Literary Longfords did not have any Christmas at all. Lady...
Net Loss
Mr Blair now has two patron saints for his project. Diana, Princess of Wales, had been co-opted as the symbol of Britain's new-found emotional freedom. Now Bill Gates, head of Microsoft, has joined the team as a token of New Labour's commitment to technology....
New Labour, New Establishment
BENEATH the mystic device of Power to the People, Tony Blair is actively devolving decision-making to those it most closely affects. Good Mr Blair, enlightened Mr Blair, what a calumny it surely must be to say that he is drunk with power, when his instinct...
Not Mad about the Boys
Everyone loves the Pre-Raphaelites, at any rate here in England. A book on the subject is one of those sure-fire publishing successes, like a volume of quick, low-fat cookery. This autumn they figure in a large exhibition at the Tate. It is not exactly...
Old Britain, New History
IN YEARS to come, children sitting on their carers' knees will ask, `Care-giver, what did you do in the war against the Tories?' and some brave souls will be able to reply, `Child, I was a history teacher. I paved the way for Tony.' Opinion polls tell...
Portrait of the Week
As the Conservatives met in Blackpool for their annual conference, Mr. William Hague, the Leader of the Opposition, placed his hopes in a reorganisation of the Conservative party, with a single, national structure and a place for members in choosing...
Reflections on Being Referred to by Alan Clark MP
The 600 Irishmen whose deaths were Mr Alan Clark's answer this week to the Irish question should not take it personally. The other day Mr Clark called me (to follow the typography used by the newspaper which quoted it) a `stupid c-'. He did not say it...
Remembering a Superb Technician
Dorothy Kingsley died last week. I don't suppose more than one in a hundred million moviegoers would know her name. But, if you went to the pictures any time between the 1943 Girl Crazy, for which she was an uncredited writer, and the last screenplay...
Star Wit
Gore Vidal once said, 'Wisdom is deepest platitude.' He must have been thinking of himself. He is always entertaining, of course; those who talk utter, and elegant, balderdash often are. He has a Wildean cruel wit which I very much like as I do his delight...
Stoppard Triumphs
For those of us, maybe just those of me, who believe that Tom Stoppard has never written anything greater than his 1974 Travesties, there is great news at the National; by way of a leaving present, Richard Eyre has staged superbly the latest play by...
The Business of Blockbusters
The present furore over Sensation at the Royal Academy is a fine example of exhibition fever. Practically everything on display has already been shown at the Saatchi Gallery or elsewhere, but circumstances have created a perfect story for the press:...
The Fib That Never Fails to Seduce Investors: 'This Time It's Different' (Oh, No, It Isn't)
ONLY the other day, everybody believed what the market was saying: `Events did seem under control. Inflation would creep, not gallop. The new economics would tune the economy. Productivity would increase. Then, what with one thing and another, the John...
The Greatest?
DEBATE still rages as to whether Paul Morphy, the mid-19th century chess genius who took the world by storm, only to retire after the briefest of careers, was the greatest chess player ever. There seems to be a doleful pattern amongst American chess...
The Truth Is Rarely Pure and Never Simple
MOAB IS MY WASHPOT by Stephen Fry Hutchinson, 16.99, pp. 320 quaveringly epicene old don in the Cambridge-Forster mould was for a time during the 1980s a regular contributor to Ned Sherrin's radio show Loose Ends. Despite the character's ludicrous mannerisms...
Those Magnificent Men
Tom Greeves, architect and saviour of Bedford Park, who died a few weeks ago, drew unique and extraordinary fantasies of robust mid-Victorian buildings in ruins the vision of Piranesi applied to Sir Gilbert Scott. Until the publication of Ruined Cities...
Time and Books Must Have a Stop
TIMEQUAKE by Kurt Vonnegut Cape, L15.99, pp. 219 Kurt Vonnegut wants to be liked. To this end he confides in his readers as he prepares to get the show on the road, or not get the show on the road, as the case may be. He's the roadie and the sound man...
Tories, Don't Cool Down
IN these columns last week, Mr Simon Brocklebank-Fowler demonstrated that delayed adolescence can remain a problem even at 36, though, to be fair, many people, even on the approaches to senility, share one of the fallacies on which his prescription for...
Total Control Takes Longer
Total control takes longer John Bowen STANLEY KUBRICK by John Baxter HarperCollins, 20, pp. 399 The set of a Kubrick movie does not seem to have been a happy place. No jokes, not even on Dr Strangelove. If there were, the associate producer would be...
What's the Best?
The proposed televising of the Gramophone Awards ceremony (ITV, 28 October) brings to fruition something I mentioned on the Today programme ten years ago: that this ceremony could become the record industry's equivalent of the Booker Prize, with all...
Where's Their Mandelson?
IT IS a measure of Labour's relentless efficiency that those of us who worked in the Millbank Tower general election HQ had to sign several documents preventing us from ever disclosing what went on. Nevertheless, I hope I am allowed to say, at the risk...
Why I Believe Ms Brittain Was More Than a Mere Postbox
Last Friday the Guardian appointed an ombudsman, John Willis, who will look into the Victoria Brittain affair. Mr Willis, until recently director of programmes for Channel 4, is an investigative reporter by trade. He should be well suited to cut his...
Will Germany Dare?
HOW did they let Helmut Kohl get away with it? This may be the question which future historians pose, when they look at the way the Chancellor abolished the German mark and replaced it with the euro. We do not yet know whether he has got away with it...
William's Not Too Bad Really
Blackpool THIS is not just a party in shock, it is a party in denial. On the first night of the conference there was a 15-minute wait for champagne to be brought up from the Imperial hotel cellar, as stocks had sold out. Earlier, I had trouble collecting...
Wish I Was There
The first volume of Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time begins with a metaphor which establishes the theme for the entire work. He remembers workmen standing round a brazier in the snow; they remind him of Roman legionnaires, then of the dancing...
You Read It Here First
THE wise sports reporter works exclusively from hindsight. Your forward-looking material should be very strong but full of perfectly poised ambiguities. No matter what the result, you should always be in a position to say, `Well, I told you it would...
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